Here’s a fascinating read on the pains some prominent women go to to distance themselves from the term feminism to describe themselves, despite profiting off the feminism movement and to a certain degree also being feminists in everything but name.
I have absolutely no good reason to call myself a feminist other than the fact I am a woman!
First things first: just because someone who has reached a position of power in the media is a woman, doesn’t mean she’s a feminist. Take Jackie O, longtime offsider of odiously sexist weirdo Kyle Sandilands. “I’ve never considered myself a feminist. I’m just, you know, I’m doing what I love. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. But … you know,” she said earlier in the year. Well, no, Jackie, we don’t know, but one thing’s for sure: your bills are paid by a show, in a notorious “boys’ club” business, that regularly belittles and castigates women — why would you call yourself a feminist? Sometimes it’s okay for us not to have a famous woman on our side, as nice as it would be.
I like men too much!
The idea that feminism means an outright rejection of men is hopelessly outdated. “I’m not a feminist — I hail men, I love men,” Lady Gaga said. “I celebrate American male culture and beer and bars and muscle cars.” (That particular quote was from ‘09, but Gaga’s stance has remained unchanged.) Guess what, Stefanie? So do I! I’ve even touched some American men and found that they didn’t turn to dust upon contact with my feminist fingers! Incredibly, it is possible to have a nuanced view of gender roles that allows you to like — even love — some men while still appreciating how many of the world’s problems are caused by (predominantly white, middle-aged) men.
Women have already achieved equality!
When you are obscenely rich, and also happen to be white, able-bodied and from an upper-middle-class background, it is easy to think that feminism has done all it can do. Yahoo!’s CEO Melissa Mayer believes “in equal rights” and that “women are just as capable [as men]” but thinks feminism is “a more negative word”. She’s not alone. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy reckoned this past week (though she claims she was misinterpreted) that “in my generation we don’t need to be feminist”. It gets worse still: “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life,” Taylor Swift said recently when asked if she was a feminist. Most women do work as hard as guys, Taylor, but most women aren’t making megabucks and selling notebooks with their face on them in Walgreen’s — in fact, most women are still earning far less than their male counterparts for exactly the same work.
But I’m a family woman!
In February, Gwyneth Paltrow supposed that her dedication to her two kids and husband was a feminist no-no. “This may not be feminist, but you have to compromise,” she said. “And if you want what you’re saying you want — a family — you have to be a wife, and that is part of the equation. Gloria Steinem may string me up by my toes, but all I can do is my best, and I can do only what works for me and my family.” Hey, Gwyn? Even Ms. Steinem was a wife once! Feminists are able to marry and work out compromises in order to make their relationships work. Indeed, you could argue that a marriage in which both partners have compromised to the point where parenting duties and breadwinning are shared equally is particularly feminist.
We don’t need labels!
The notion that to merely use the term “feminist” will derail the universe is a common one. Melissa Leo, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in The Fighter and who has made a career out of playing feisty, independent characters, was at pains in August to tell Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir that it didn’t mean she was a feminist “at all”. Her reasoning? “As soon as we start labeling and categorizing ourselves and others, that’s going to shut down the world.” The interview then went on to discuss whether her various hair colours had affected the types of roles she’d been offered. Well, we wouldn’t want to shut the world down, would we?
As easy as it is to ignore such women, it is an unfortunate consequence of the idolization industry that young people all over the world look up to these women as role models. I myself once turned in an assignment in high school with Robbie Williams as someone I looked up to. Post-Pharyngula-reading me now cringes at the thought.
Alright we get it. You all aren’t feminists. But would you all have the decency to at least respect the work of actual feminists who made the world a less intolerable place for women by not caricaturing the movement?